A Month of Horror 2014 – Chapter 3

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Let’s dig into a few more tasty horror treats…In this post: Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Monster Club, The Town That Dreaded Sundown and Gurozuka.

 

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (Bob Clark – 1973)
I’m not sure how this “let’s get our friends together and make a movie” movie didn’t completely collapse into itself, but it somehow stayed afloat even if about 70% of the frame at any given time seems to be complete blackness. Fortunately director Bob Clark (Black Christmas and a c.v. of films almost as diverse as Robert Wise) wisely decided to clad his group of friends in brightly coloured clothing for their night time adventure through an island cemetery for fun & games and inspiration for their play. None of them seem to like each other, so calling them “friends” might be a stretch, but they all seem to follow the egotistical and nasty director who performs a number of rituals over the graveyard. Without really meaning to, he ends up accidentally waking a whole assortment of dead folks. The last 20 minutes of the movie actually work quite decently with the troupe trying to battle and escape the zombies, but it’s a bit of a challenge to get there.

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Review: Vampire Academy

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Director: Mark Waters (Freaky Friday, Mean Girls, Just Like Heaven)
Writer: Daniel Waters, Richelle Mead
Producers: Susan Montford, Don Murphy, Deepak Nayar, Michael Preger
Starring: Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Danila Kozlovsky, Gabriel Byrne, Dominic Sherwood, Olga Kurylenko, Sarah Hyland, Cameron Monaghan
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 104 min.


Chances are that if you’re not 15 or a fan of Richelle Mead’s novels, you have no idea and/or interest in Vampire Academy but let me tell you, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Particularly if you like the biting social commentary of something like Mean Girls mixed in with the sass of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – the movie, not the show that I’ve only seen five episodes of.

Rose (Zoey Deutch) is a Dhampir, half human/half vampire, she is training to be a guardian, a protector of the Moroi, the non-sparkly vampires who don’t explode into flame in the daylight but who are also kind of helpless thanks to their dependence on the guardians. Rose and her best friend Lissa have run away from the confines of Vampire Academy and have spent the last year on the run, mingling in with humanity. They’re eventually dragged back by Dimitri, a god among guardians, to face the music: not only have they broken a bunch of rules but Lissa, the last of the Dragomir line and possible successor to the throne, has been under the protection of an untested guardian.

The universe isn’t very complicated but you’d think it was rocket science considering the amount of time and trouble writer Daniel Waters (yes, that Daniel Waters) and his brother director Mark Waters (yup, of Mean Girls fame) take to explain the basics. The movie kicks into the explanation from the get go with some less than appealing voiceover and mixed throughout the movie are moments which are clearly fan service (I could almost hear the brothers discussing how they had to include the Molnija marks – a short scene which ridiculously includes a male hair toss and is later echoed, far more naturally, near the end of the movie). Thankfully, Vampire Academy bounces back quickly, delving heavily into a high school drama that also plays out like a Nancy Drew mystery. The girls need to figure out what their psychic bond really means, who is bullying Lissa and why the Princess is a target while also dealing with their personal boyfriend drama. Oh high school. What a drag.

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Review: Byzantium

Two sisters try to lay low in Dublin while being pursued by long-coated inspectors. Having committed a rather kinetic and conspicuous murder in the opening sequence of the film, the Webb sisters are actually a pair of highland blood suckers, a 200 year old mother and daughter pair of vampires. Possibly the last of their kind, moving from town to town and still working out some serious parent-child issues (not the least of which is their approach to handling their prey) Gemma Arterton literally vamps it up, putting on a prostitute pose to seduce lowlives and cops, while her daughter, plays more school girl, a more subtle and melancholic performance by Saoirse Ronan. The opposite disposition of these ladies (and the secrets they keep) are the engine for a plot that takes its sweet time to get going, but eventually, perhaps too late, pulls the narrative strings together.

Neil Jordan is no stranger to either fairy tales or gothic drama having started his career with Red Ridinghood horror picture, In The Company of Wolves, peaked commercially with the romantic vampire studio picture, Interview With The Vampire, and recently brushed up with Irish folklore in Ondine. Even the directors indie dramas, The Crying Game and The Butcher Boy flirt with gothic and melodramatic stylings. If you want to do a more stately and classical take on the modern vampire (read: no sparkling emo treacle) it would appear that Jordan is your man. Which makes it a bit baffling how Byzantium never really soars, even as it pulls all of its narrative strings together in a somewhat satisfying conclusion. The film tries to establish the contrast between its bodice-ripper (Gemma Arterton’s cleavage upstages her somewhat histrionic performance) segments and stylized urban melancholy. Neither Anne Rice nor Mike Leigh, the film offers some compelling images in an attempt to marry the two, but it is an uncomfortable union.

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A Month Of Horror 2012 – Chapter 4

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Almost halfway through the month and I’m still transfixed on all manner of freaky films.

 

Amityville II: The Possession (1982 – Damiano Damiani)
Though this sequel (or prequel depending on what you want to believe about the background of the stories) plays out its devil possession story little by little, it’s quite amazing how it reaches a major crescendo around the 20 minute mark and then another at an hour before its final inevitable fiery showdown. In between these peaks, it plays out the haunted/cursed house tale mostly via sound, camera point of view shots and character reactions – and it’s far more effective than you might expect. The dialogue and acting are average (though you have to love Burt Young for diving full tilt into the Dad-who-can-snap-at-a-moment’s-notice character), but it builds the transformation of the eldest son a step at a time as the family moves into the house. Along with Mom, Dad and the devil-in-training, there are three others in the family – two youngsters (who keep getting blamed for things the house is doing – e.g. writing on walls, destroying furniture, etc.) and a teenage daughter who is distressingly close with the oldest boy. On top of that, Mom’s just spitting distance away from serious religious fanaticism, so this family has been teetering on the edge before they even pulled up to the front door. And so the house is more than willing to give them that extra push…Even the priest who eventually gets sucked in to the family’s woes may have his own secrets. There are intimations that he may like young girls or maybe that he’s gay or that he’s losing faith. The way this film plays out, he could well be all three.

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The Reflecting Skin (1990 – Philip Ridley)
The first of two films in this batch that approach horror from a child’s point of view. If the themes aren’t horrific initially, by the time they’ve been filtered through the eyes of the children they’ve certainly become horror. In this particular film, a young boy named Seth Dove is in the middle of growing up around the wheat fields of Idaho in the 1950s. With his brother off in the Pacific islands working on nuclear test ranges, his mother getting more angry and bitter by the day and his weak-willed father escaping into his vampire books, Seth has lots of time to create his own stories and ideas. As some of his friends begin disappearing, his father’s past gets dug up and tragic consequences ensue – but Seth seems remarkably detached and focused on the single thought that the black-clad widow in a neighbouring house is an actual vampire and has stolen his friends. This is amplified when his brother Cameron comes home and falls in love with the widow. Young Seth sees them together as they disrobe, but is she sucking his blood or are they actually in an amorous clutch? Ridley doesn’t focus on spooky, but still manages to create a disturbing environment – the loneliness is all around them, palpable and it’s all that’s in store for Seth. Cameron and the widow seem to be the only ones with a hope of finding some actual happiness, so is Seth really afraid of vampires, or is he afraid of being left alone yet again? Or maybe he just can’t stand to see others be happy when he knows what his own lot is going to be. A truly odd movie – slow and occasionally uncomfortable, but filled to the brim with allusions to a child’s worries.

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Cinecast Episode 223 – Just the Alien from Cloverfield and Super 8?

 
 
A bit of a break in the usual routine as summer comes closer to a close – In this episode of the Cinecast director Jim Mickle (Stake Land and Mulberry St.) joins Kurt and Andrew for a chat on Jon Favreau’s Cowboys and Aliens and Errol Morris’s Tabloid. We mix up the typical show order and do DVD picks first (as Stake Land hits DVD shelves this week!), then our main reviews, with liberal sprinkling of Netflix instant watch suggestions throughout the show before finally ending on The Watch List. This allows for a lot of delightful tangents and director/screenwriter insights. Hope you enjoy this one, it’s a keeper.

As always, thanks for listening and please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below.


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
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Cinecast Episode 184 – Death Lottery

 
The 4 hour barrier is broken as The Documentary Blog’s Jay Cheel joins Kurt and Andrew on the longest Cinecast ever – you know it is even longer than the previous epic length TIFF show. What do we talk about? For starters, Kurt & Jay examine the Let The Right One In remake, Let Me In (*SPOILERS*), in painstaking detail, and how not to process American remakes of foreign language films. Next we move along for a solid hour on Never Let Me Go (*SPOILERS*) which keeps going on the vibe of comparing source material to eventual film adaptation and why you probably should not do that. More Carey Mulligan talk as Andrew skims and sums up Wall Street 2 with out spoilers. Then, a spoiler-free discussion on Catfish follows, although only Jay caught it, so it is more of a discussion on fake/faux-Documentaries, and ‘narrative-ethics’ which leads to more more talk on I’m Still Here, with a little Last Exorcism and The Blair Witch Project to round things out. Next we move along to the avant garde and barely-narrative Cannes Palme D’Or winner, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and a lot of other films we watched: An overview of the “Middletown” documentary series, a bit of Daybreakers-Redux, a bit of Season 6 of “LOST” (you guessed it, with *SPOILERS*), and more avant garde cinema with Last Year At Marienbad. We also debate the finer points of Steve Buscemi and the cast and crew of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” Finally (finally!) at around the 4 hour mark, our DVD picks round out a show that carried us well into the wee hours of the night recording. We hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed chatting. It may be long, but it is a solid and whip-smart show this time around, although we are biased on that front.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 
 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
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Cinecast Episode 183 – The Jogging Gay Guys

 
Thanks to regular RowThree contributor and all around nice guy, Bob Turnbull for showing up once again on this week’s Cinecast to help us all digest the massive movie extravaganza known as this years edition Toronto International Filmfestival (aka TIFF10). Also, a hearty welcome to the longest Row Three Cinecast episode of all time. Bob and Kurt give some preview and insight into much anticipated films from Werner Herzog, Darren Aronofsky, Danny Boyle, Mike Leigh, Sion Sono, Errol Morris, John Carpenter, Sylvain Chomet, and the folks behind Not Quite Hollywood looking at the Drive-In cheapies shot in the Philippines. And then there is the really off-beat stuff like a post-apocalyptic-vampire-western-road movie, Stake Land (which is magnificent), a naughty DIY costumed hero flick from James Gun called Super and starring Ellen Page and Kevin Bacon, an Eva Green starring ethereal cloning drama from Hungary, but in English, called Womb, and a film that will make you completely reassess how you feel about Santa Claus and his elf posse when the jolly fat man is portrayed as a 25 meter tall horned demon encased in a block of ice under a Finnish mountain. But before all that, Andrew managed to catch Ben Affleck’s latest directorial effort, The Town as well as the much talked about I’m Still Here starring Joaquin Phoenix and directed by the other Affleck, Casey. Easy A also available to the multiplex crowd has Bob and Kurt heap a fair bit of love onto the film in an effort to get Andrew to give it a chance. Yes, folks, it is that good. A few other movies we watched, DVD picks (we’re all a bit drunk at this point) and the odd tangent keep this podcast unspooling and unspooling.
We hope you enjoy this latest show and as always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 
 

 
 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_183.mp3

ALTERNATIVE (no music track):
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“Let Me In” gets second trailer (a Redbander)

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As Jandy noted when the first teaser for Matt Reeves’ Let Me In dropped a few weeks ago, around these parts, we’re all pretty big fans of the original. Looking through the comments on that first teaser, the feeling was pretty mutual from our readers as well: nothing new & a necessary remake.

Turns out we’re not alone because around the interwebs, feelings were echoed. Those who saw Let The Right One In (review) were unforgiving and down right upset at the very idea of a remake. I’m not keen on it either but truth be told, that teaser trailer had my attention. Then there was a fantastic one sheet (which was followed up by a second earlier today – see them both here) which got me thinking that perhaps the people behind this project aren’t completely off their rockers. And then I read Matt Goldberg’s overview of the SDCC panel on the film and I’m pretty much sold on the idea that Reeves is quite likely in the very small (tiny) group of filmmakers who makes an honest to goodness good remake (or, as seems to be the case here, re-interpretation of the original source material).

I wasn’t there, I didn’t see the footage so I may be totally off but judging from Goldberg’s description and the new trailer, I am feeling much, much better about this production. Truth be told I was going to see it regardless but I’m much less concerned about it being a disaster.

This second trailer (via MTV) is pretty long, covers many of the key scenes and may be considered spoilerish but then, that’s coming from someone who has seen Let The Right One In more times than I care to admit. Still be warned, the new trailer covers a lot of ground.

Let Me In opens October 1st.

Trailer tucked under the seats.

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Review: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

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Director: David Slade (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night)
Screenplay: Melissa Rosenberg, Stephenie Meyer (novel)
Producers: Wyck Godfrey, Greg Mooradian, Karen Rosenfelt
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Billy Burke, Charlie Bewley, Xavier Samuel, Daniel Cudmore, Christopher Heyerdahl, Dakota Fanning, Cameron Bright, Noot Seer, Michael Sheen, Graham Greene, Tinsel Korey
MPAA Rating: PG13
Running time: 124 min.

Let’s speak frankly, shall we? The Twilight franchise is not now, nor will it ever be, the all encompassing beast that is Harry Potter. Regardless of how much money the studio throws into the marketing machine, it’s wasted time, effort and dollars because as proven by the previous two films and now with the third instalment The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, they’re never going to win everyone over. The reasons why are too many to argue (and mediocre films are only one of them) and quite frankly, they don’t matter. Author Stephenie Meyer’s stories were never going to appeal to everyone, the key demographic has always been the hopeless romantic (and even some of those take issue with the story) and the films based on those stories clearly haven’t won over a large chunk of the population so why bother trying? The fan base is large enough, and ever growing, that the nay sayers are drowned out, even if they yell as loud or louder than the supporters.

Eclipse Movie StillAs clear from my thoughts on the previous two films, I am a fan and as one, I came to love these characters long before there ever was a Twilight (review) film and the movies have been a sort of icing on the cake. Some bits of the icing have been sweeter than others but Eclipse is, for this fan at least, the sweetest. By this point in the story, Bella is back with Edward and happier than she’s ever been but Victoria, the rogue vampire who has been responsible for much, though not all, of Bella’s heartache, has a new plan of attack. She’s building an army and brining them to Forks in an effort to wipe out Bella in retribution for the loss of her own mate but to do so, she first needs to dispatch the pesky Cullens who have adopted Bella as one of their own.

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The drought is over. First trailer for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse!

Twilight Saga Eclipse PosterWhen, in April of 2009, rumours floated of David Slade possibly directing The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, I was excited. A fan of both the franchise and Slade, the prospect of seeing them meet was almost too much to bear. When the announcement came that Slade had indeed signed onto the project, I was trhilled (read: beside myself with excitement).

A few months later the central cast members returned to Vancouver (with the exception of Rachelle Lefevre whose character of Victoria is now being played by Bryce Dallas Howard) along with some new faces and filming began on the third installment of the franchise. The sets were much more guarded and though the fandom was present at every corner, we seemed to be seeing less and less of what was being shot and were it not for the fact that the story originates from a book, those who haven’t read it will be hardpressed to tell you what it’s about.

In an odd turn of events, Summit has decided to take a completely different approach to their marketing of Eclipse. By this point in the game with the New Moon release, we’d seen footage, treasers, a trailer and more images that we could shake a stick at (both official and unofficial) but for Eclipse, nothing. There’s one official picture kicking around which gives you very little and even the few leaked images which popped up a few weeks ago provided little indication as to what Slade’s version of the story would look like. Quite the feat considering the film is only three months away.

Yesterday, the studio released the first 10 seconds of the teaser, ten seconds that revealed nothing but threw the fandom intoa tizzy. Do you blame us? For a group which is so used to being drowned with material, this tease is a little painful. Thankfully, the studio has a little heart and the full trailer is now live, a mere 24 hours since our first glimpse. And that glimpse is interesting.

This looks nothing like a David Slade film – at least none of the David Slade films I’ve seen. It’s warm and sun bathed – not exactly what I had expected. Though there isn’t the over the top action crammed into this that there was into New Moon there was some hint at it (good thing too since this installment has more action than most of the others). It’s not what I expected by I do like it.

Let the snark fly!

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse opens to the universe on June 30th.

Trailer tucked under the seats!

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Cinecast Episode 151 – Feeding Time

Episode 151:

SPOILERS ALERT!
Despite the announcement at the beginning of the show about a top ten list, alas it was abandoned at the last minute. Instead you get a “spirited” talk about why vampires go crazy for blood and some nice DVD choices this week. Thanks to Matt for dropping in again.
Enjoy!

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